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Istanbul: Too crowded in late June?

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Mar 12th, 2015, 09:51 AM
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Istanbul: Too crowded in late June?

I've been wanting to visit Istanbul for several years and just booked a cruise that leaves Istanbul on 6/23 and travels up the Dalmation Coast, over to Venice and back to Istanbul. I was all set to spend 4 days prior to the cruise in Istanbul and have done lots of research on this website, plus guidebooks. Based on all I've read, I get the impression that the "top 10" sites (Topkapi, Blue Mosque, Cisterns, etc.) will be mobbed with tourists - I'm picturing a scene similar to Times Square on summer weekends. (There will be at least one, if not two, cruise ships in port each of those days.) I usually travel in the off-season so avoid the crowds and am not sure I can "go with the flow" of crowds - it can be hard to see past them to the beauty of the site.

So, I have two questions for Fodorites: how crowded are these sites and their surrounding areas? And, would Dubrovnik be less crowded? The cruise doesn't go there, so I could fly to Dubrovnik for 3 days, then fly to Istanbul and board the ship. I could go to Istanbul in late January 2016. Thanks for any input!
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Mar 12th, 2015, 10:22 AM
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It's a city of 13 million residents + what seems like that many tourists, so Istanbul will always be crowded. I have been there twice, both in late summer and never found it unmanageable. Just keep your wits about you re. your money, camera, mobile phone, etc. and enjoy the sights, sounds and food. Along with Paris, Istanbul is my favorite city in the world.
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Mar 12th, 2015, 10:47 AM
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Try to get to the major sites early before the mega sized cruise ship passengers arrive. We were fine at Topkapi, walking around seeing the palace until those hordes arrived and caused gridlock..
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Mar 12th, 2015, 10:57 AM
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We were there in September and yes, the old town, Sultanhamet, was packed. It gets a bunch of cruise ships that disperse 1,000's of people into the area at what seems like the same time. We tried to get out early in the am to beat the masses. It was fine also late afternoon and evening. The rest of Istanbul had varying degrees of crowds no different from any large city.
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Mar 12th, 2015, 11:07 AM
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I hadn't thought of late afternoon, so that's a good tip. If I go to one site first thing in the AM (say, 9:00) and then another at around 3:00, I should be able to visit my top spots over the course of 4 days. Then, I can explore some other areas - and have lunch - in between. Thanks!
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Mar 12th, 2015, 11:59 AM
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I've just returned from 3 days in Istanbul. Get the Museum Pass so you bypass all the queues and go to the Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia first thing in the mornings so you are one of the first in. (At Topkapi Palace go and see the Harem first).

It wasn't overly busy last week, but I didn't enjoy the constant pestering and harassment in the old part of the city during the day.

So I saw sights early morning, and late afternoon. In the meantime I spent one day walking and exploring along Istikial Street (sp?), the other on a boat trip where I got off on the Asia side at Uskudar and explored over there (that was really nice) and the third day I went to the Dolmabahce Palace (wonderful) and then took a bus up the coast to the village of Ortakoy at the foot of the Bosphorus Bridge which was lovely in the sunshine.

hope this helps a bit. Enjoy your visit!
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Mar 12th, 2015, 12:10 PM
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Go to Istanbul. It will always be somewhat crowded. See Topkapi early. Hagia Sophia is lovely late afternoon into evening. Cruises continue to stop in Istanbul well into late fall, so you can't avoid extra people no matter when you go. If you can add a couple of extra days, visit Cappadocia.
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Mar 12th, 2015, 12:31 PM
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The 85TL, 72hr pass is one way to skip the ticket line (but not the crowd inside). This pass breaks even if you do Topkapı palace + harem, Ayasofya, and one more included in the pass. See http://www.muze.gov.tr/tr/kartlar-ve...-nedir_15.html "Museum Pass Noktaları:" shows where it is valid.

Yerebatan Sarnıcı (Basilica Cistern) is not included in the pass.

One gotcha in your case is 6/22 is Monday (general museum closure date) and 6/23 is Tuesday (Topkapı closed).

Visiting any mosque is easier in the morning with longer visitor hours between the sunrise and noon calls to prayer, except for Friday when morning is out for the Blue Mosque. Afternoon visit is harder as you have to find small openings between three calls to prayer, presuming you are just a visitor.
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Mar 12th, 2015, 01:15 PM
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Great advice that has put my mind at ease, so I've decided to stick with my plan to visit Istanbul. The early/late stops at the main attractions makes sense and I will definitely buy the 72 hr museum pass so that I can at least avoid waiting in lines.

Julia_T: Your visit sounds like a page from my book, especially wandering around Istiklal St since I do like a break from sites. Will also research a water trip to Asia.

Thanks all!
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Mar 13th, 2015, 03:20 AM
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Am glad you are visiting, we spent 3 days there in late June a few years ago and totally loved it. Istanbul has a great vibe, so much to see and wonderful food. We visited the main attractions early and then just wandered. A lovely place to get a little lost in the alleys and side streets of city living, rather than shopping/ cultural sites. And Sunday was interesting, with a mass of local families and tourists (especially the river area by the bridge), but it was fascinating rather than claustrophobic.
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Mar 13th, 2015, 04:41 AM
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A few things we enjoyed in Istanbul that might get you away from the crowds.

- the Chora church. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chora_Church We did it with a guide in a taxi but I believe you can do on your own easily enough. Very beautiful mosaics and the stories told are a very interesting part of Christian history.

- a ride on Bosporous ferry. I don't think we planned for a specific one. Just hopped on one afternoon, enjoyed the ride and walk around a "regular" neighborhood and a Turkish ice cream. http://www.cntraveler.com/galleries/...phorus-ferries

- the shopping between the main Bazaar and Sultanahmet. We aren't really shoppers but we found Sofa, two locations along there. Both antiques and creative items made currently. http://kashifsofa.com/

- Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art. This was right next to our hotel on the western edge of Sultanahmet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkish...ic_Arts_Museum
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Mar 13th, 2015, 04:51 AM
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Hi there,
Istanbul is a crowded city anyway and unfortunately has more tourists in May, June, September and October. However, you can still enjoy the city by beating the crowds. Best way is getting a flexible guide and tell him or her what kind of a tour you want. Museum pass is a good key to beat the queues in the museums and starting early is good as well. Please try downloading an offline map to your mobile device and walk around on your own easily since most of the important museums are close to each other in the old city. Tram and subway is easy to use which will get you from one point to another easily also to the Asian side. Using multiple ferries in the bosporus will give you a nice bosporus cruise with a small budget however, you can rent a private yacht to do it in Istanbul. I would like to say welcome before and wish you a nice trip there...
turkeytourorganizer
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Mar 13th, 2015, 05:48 AM
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Haven't yet been to Istanbul and cannot comment but I will say that we loved Dubrovnik, so if not this time, definitely a destination to keep on your list! We stopped there on a cruise and returned the following year just to visit Croatia....we started in Split. Montenegro is gorgeous and Mostar, Bosnia was interesting.
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Mar 13th, 2015, 07:15 AM
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As always, Fodorites offer great suggestions!

Laurie_ann: Sofa looks very appealing. Like you, I'm not a shopper but I do like to buy a unique item (whether a scarf, dish or art) to remind me of a place so I'll definitely stop in. Chora and the museum of Islamic art were already on my list, so good to know that they're slightly off the beaten path.

A ferry ride is also on my list with wandering around the area. I've always been intrigued by dervishes, have any of you been to a show? (doesn't seem right to call it a show or performance, since it's religious)
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Mar 13th, 2015, 07:29 AM
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I went to the whirling dervishes and it was intriguing. There are two shows of which I was aware, but there may be others. We went to one at HodjaPasha Dance Theater. If you want to go I would get your hotel to get you tickets or at least find out where and when shows are and buy tickets in advance. We originally tried ot go to the Galata Mevlevihanesi, just off Tünel Square at the southwestern end of İstiklal Caddesi, but it was sold out.

As an aside while Chora is a bit off the beaten path as far as its location, it is very well known and popular. We waited in a short line to get in. Its beautiful.
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Mar 13th, 2015, 09:46 AM
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We were in Istanbul end Sept 2013 and then again June 3rd week last year, June is certainly much more crowded. But getting to the sites, like the Topkapi Palace and Aya Sofya, first thing in the morning will help you beat the crowds, especially the ones who come off the cruise ships. Late afternoon is good too, we found Dolmabache Palace relatively free of crowds around 4pm. And don't miss the Chora Church, an absolute gem, there were renovations going on last year, not sure if it is over now.
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Mar 13th, 2015, 10:22 AM
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We were in Istanbul in Oct.2014 and there were renovations going on at Chora Church. However, we were able to view so many magnificent mosaics. Highly fecommend it. We didn't care for Dolmabçe Palace, French, lots of gilt and quite hot inside.
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Mar 17th, 2015, 11:33 AM
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I visited there during that time frame. I did not find it crowded except for the Topkapi palace. It was shoulder to shoulder moving through some rooms. But the mosques were fine after standing in line a bit (to be expected and was not outrageous).

The bazaar, well that place is also crazy crowded but in a good way.
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